How do I build a working Etch-A-Sketch costume
September 28, 2008 3:59 AM   Subscribe

I need to build a working etch-a-sketch costume for Halloween. How do I make the internal mechanisms, and how do I make a very large shake-to-erase screen?

I want this to be a FULLY FUNCTIONAL ETCH-A-SKETCH.....i also want to be able to fit inside and be able to walk around with it on like a costume. How should i make the X&Y axis turn knobs and their mechanism? How on earth do i engineer a shake-to-erase screen that's huge and portable? Any suggestions would help, as well as any ideas on how to make it so completely detailed that it's creepy. Thanks!

if this completely fails, my other option is to be Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo from daft punk, but i have ABSOLUTELY no clue how i'd ever make the tinted plexiglass part of that helmet! any ideas on that for next year would help, too!
posted by cmchap to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Let me be the first of many who will say: that Etch-a-Sketch idea is way too hard, so I think you need to go for Plan B here. And on that note...

Daft Punk Helmet, Fancy Way
Daft Punk Helmet, Cheapo Way
posted by rokusan at 4:36 AM on September 28, 2008

For the Etch-a-Sketch, the X-Y mechanism is really quite straightforward, as you can see here. The plastic screen is not a big deal, either.

What is a big deal, big pain in the ass, and big risk is working with such amounts of aluminum powder, which is what is used inside the Etch-a-Sketch. It's not fun to work with, it's incredibly messy, and can irritate your respiratory system and with long-term exposure is tied to all kinds of dain bramage and cancer.

Plus, I don't know how you'll get people to pick you up and shake you hard enough to erase you.

It is an awesome idea, BUT.

The helmet is much easier. Find yourself a sheet of plastic, and a vacuum former. If you're careful, you can even melt the plastic sheet in a household oven just enough to form it over something the right shape.
posted by whatzit at 4:52 AM on September 28, 2008

I admire you're ambition, but an Etch-A-Sketch does sound very unlikely. FWIW, though...

How does an Etch-A-Sketch work?
posted by jon1270 at 4:52 AM on September 28, 2008

Only thing I can think of is a LED display that is programmed to *sketch* a form, a word or image via each of the 2 *dials* which would essentially be the *start* buttons. Each button assigned an electronic panel by which the LED display (a very large one worn as the costume) would carry out the commands.

That said - here are some places of interest that could take you some steps further in manifesting your vision


and this

posted by watercarrier at 5:29 AM on September 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

If you've got one, maybe rethink this as a costume for a small, compliant dog? (Etch-a-Pooch, sorry couldn't resist). This might solve some of the problems of size, shake, and substance exposure.
posted by nax at 5:56 AM on September 28, 2008

Perhaps make a modified version of an etch-a-sketch using, I dunno-

A black dry erase marker instead of a stylus? The shake-to-erase thing won't work, but I don't think that's going to be practical to engineer.
posted by JMOZ at 6:15 AM on September 28, 2008

How much time do you have to work on this project, and what's your budget?
posted by box at 6:34 AM on September 28, 2008

JMOZ's concept, with a hard plastic sheet. The background being a box painted silver, and wearing silver gloves inserted like a hazardous material enclosure, and cover the marker in silver.
posted by StickyCarpet at 6:40 AM on September 28, 2008

I'd get a big static-y piece of plastic to use as the screen, and some talcum powder, and I'd attach a big plastic glove on the back of the box so I could slip my hand in the glove and draw a picture without letting the talcum powder leak out of the box. I would shake the box, and then draw another picture.

You're welcome. Now tell me where to buy tenacles in bulk for my costume.
posted by acrasis at 7:41 AM on September 28, 2008

You could fake it with a translucent piece of plastic and a dry erase marker. You could either try to draw what they're maneuvering the knobs to do, or just draw funny things like an apple and a sun.

Ha, I see that came up already, whoops.
posted by salvia at 10:08 AM on September 28, 2008

Could you adapt the magic slate toy? I'm not quite sure how, but thought I'd throw that in here.
posted by Helga-woo at 10:22 AM on September 28, 2008

If you build any sort of large scale Etch-a-Sketch that you can wear and people can fiddle with and draw something with AT ALL you'll be the coolest cat at the ball.

I think you could piece together a fairly convincing and functional PVC tubing version of the sketching mechanism, and use either thin butcher paper for the screen and a sharpie as the stylus (so the image will bleed through), or the aforementioned dry-erase marker and plastic vellum. You'll have to come up with some shaking patter for while you change the paper or erase the screen, but damn, if you can get it to work it'll be a total showstopper.

I say go for it with the Etch-a-Sketch. Better to shoot extremely high and end up with an interesting qualified failure than to just not try. Plus, I think it is doable. Sort of.
posted by dirtdirt at 11:12 AM on September 28, 2008

Okay, you buy a huge sheet of translucent gray plexiglass (barring that, you buy it clear, and then coat the outside half with grey gel, like for lights). Second, you make a case that you can stand inside that has roughly the same dimensions as an etch-a-sketch case (make it out of cardboard and give it two useless knobs), and paint the inside gray and give yourself a little shelf on the inside (and maybe even a battery powered light (ikea sells some that are self sticking and push on and off; this is only if the plexiglass is too opaque after you test it). Wear all gray as well and tape up the edges of the plexiglass so it doesn't cut you or at the case.
The dimensions should be deeper than the actual case, but thinner than a doorway because you'll probably have to walk sideways into narrow doorways. Personally, I'd make the case attachable with velcro and put a lot of padding around the shoulders area. Inside, you put several black dry erase markers, cleaning solution and rags (these will rest in the little shelf area.
Go to party. When people remark "wow!" tell them that it only works if they navigate both knobs, and then start drawing from inside as soon as they start swinging the knobs. Prepare a list of prepared jokes (if they complain that it isn't working well, tell them that they must not've practiced in awhile; make sure to shake your body when you clean it off from the inside; "well at least you're drawing a crowd" etc). You'll probably only do it five or so times for the night, so you don't need a lot of material, but I'm sure you'll have fun.
posted by history is a weapon at 10:04 AM on October 4, 2008

I know it's a little late, but I thought this might be relevant.
posted by joshrholloway at 12:53 PM on November 10, 2008

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